By Gilbert Munetsi
BUHERA district, tucked away in the south-western corner of Manicaland province, is renowned for very limited attractions.
Of course, phosphate produced at the once-vibrant Dorowa Mine along the Chivhu-Nyazura Highway tops the list for its contribution to the fertilizer demands of the country in general.
Then comes the Matendera family of monuments which the National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe has seen the need to revive in the quest to promote domestic tourism.
And some 10km from the monuments lies the infamous Dzapasi Assembly Point that accommodated the largest concentration of freedom fighters at ceasefire in 1980.
Agriculturally, there is virtually very little to talk about in Buhera district owing to the sandy soils and erratic rains received in the area, compelling the farming community to mainly opt for the drought resistant crops like sorghum. Against such a background, there was all reason for pomp and fanfare last Friday when the Ministry of ICT and Courier Services joined hands with Potraz, TelOne, Vision International and the local community of Murambinda to launch three community networks and information centres.
Two, one of which is at the post office, are for the community while the other, situated at Murambinda B Primary School, is primarily for the institution. Residents and passersby within a certain radius are, however, able to also link up.
Postal and Courier Services minister Jenfan Muswere headlined the launch ceremony and celebrations that had a number of celebrities from the political, education and telecommunications sectors gathering for an event locals described as “the emergence of a new era.”
According to Muswere, the community networks, generally referred to as the internet by the people, are expected to bring unprecedented times where the internet is no longer a luxury, but a basic need for day-to-day survival.
“The locals have come together to build infrastructure and internet connectivity by utilising low-cost equipment and local volunteers to ensure that the cost of services remains affordable to the consumers.
“The call for universal access has never been more felt than during the trying times we find ourselves in due to the COVID-19 pandemic which has amplified the wide gap between the connected and unconnected.
“Community networks bring the void by providing multi-sectorial digital environment which crisscross agriculture, health, commerce and industry, mining and social issues that impact on especially the peri-urban and rural families,” Muswere said.
“To this effect therefore, government will be rolling out a number of projects under the Universal Services Fund as part of our digital transformation agenda.”
Speaking at the same event, Potraz director-general Gift Machengete said the philosophy of his organisation in executing their mandate, mantra, slogan and motto was that no one should be left behind.
Due to affordability and has access issues, only half of the world’s populations have access to the internet while the other half is still on the sidelines of the digital highway, he noted.
“We have thus resolved that a transformative way to overcome the connectivity challenges especially in areas like these is employing public access solutions such as community networks and information centres,” he said.
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